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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

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Norton Criticizes Trump Administration for Continuing to Ignore D.C. on Judicial Nominations, Virginia Resident Nominated

Sep 7, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) sharply criticized the Trump administration for its continued refusal to consult with her on nominations for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the administration today nominated Matthew Spencer Petersen, of Virginia, to serve as a judge.  Norton will urge Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats to question Petersen on whether he intends to reside in the District during his tenure, as she has done for previous Trump administration nominees.

“Seven months into his presidency, the Trump administration continues to ignore and disrespect District residents by refusing to consult with us on nominations,” Norton said.  “We demand a say, like residents of states, on those who will serve in our jurisdiction.”

In March, Norton wrote President Trump requesting that he extend her the courtesy of consulting on the appointment of key federal officials in D.C.—including federal district court judges, the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Marshals—the same courtesy extended to her by President George W. Bush.  Presidents Clinton and Obama extended Norton “senatorial courtesy” to recommend these federal officials in the same manner as Democratic senators, and all of Norton’s recommendations were D.C. residents or committed to residing in the District during their terms.  Using this authority, Norton formed a commission of distinguished lawyers and non-lawyers, chaired by a former president of the D.C. Bar, to screen and recommend candidates, and Norton then interviewed and recommended the top candidates to the president. 

Under Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), like his immediate predecessor and some prior chairmen, the committee has not considered nominees for federal judge, U.S. attorney or U.S. Marshal unless both home-state senators, regardless of party, consent to the nominee moving forward, known as the “blue-slip” process.  D.C. has no senator.

To date, Trump has nominated four to the federal district court here and the U.S. Attorney, but four of the five nominees are not D.C. residents.  Under federal law, in nearly every U.S. jurisdiction, federal district court judges, U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals are required to reside within the jurisdictions where they have been appointed—but no such residency requirement exists for officials serving in the District.  In April, Norton introduced a bill to require these officials serving in D.C. to live in D.C.  The bill is part of her “Free and Equal D.C.” series of legislation, which insists on equal rights for D.C. residents, which is possible under the Home Rule Act even before the District achieves statehood.

The Trump administration today also nominated Gregory G. Katsas, of Virginia, to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  Norton has never had a role in the selection of circuit court nominees.